Oxford tops world university rankings for first time

Oxford University is the first UK institution to top the Times Higher Education annual rankings of the world’s best universities.

Oxford University tops Times Higher Education annual rankings
Oxford University has become the first UK higher education institution to top the Times Higher Education (THE) annual rankings of the world's best universities.But immediately after the rankings of almost 1,000 universities worldwide were unveiled on Thursday, Professor Louise Richardson, Oxford's vice-chancellor, warned that the Brexit vote in June's referendum could lead to an exodus of leading academics from Britain.She told the BBC that guaranteeing the right to remain of the 17 per cent of university staff who were EU citizens must be a priority. Professor Richardson also questioned if the government would underwrite the £67 million a year Oxford currently receives from the European Research Council, after the UK leaves the bloc."The concern is that our academics who are at Oxford might decide to leave if they are concerned that they may not be able to get their research funded in the future," she said."There are many universities in the world that would be thrilled to have them and are approaching them and asking them if they would return to their universities instead."Professor Richardson said that discussions were underway with ministers about a post-Brexit government matching the current EU grants, but she added, "I'm not in a position to guarantee that to our academics. I wish I were."

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In the THE rankings, Oxford ousted the California Institute of Technology, which had occupied the No 1 position five times, from the top spot.The highest positions in the ratings were again dominated by universities in the US and UK with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich being the only interloper in the top ten. With 88 universities in the top 800 – an increase from 78 last year – the UK was second only to the US for the number institutions in the world’s best 800. "Oxford’s success can be attributed to improved performances across the four main indicators underlying the methodology of the ranking – teaching, research, citations and international outlook," said the THE. "More specifically, the institution’s total income and research income is rising faster than its staff numbers, its research is more influential, and it has been more successful at drawing in international talent."But THE said there were signs that institutions in Asia were making progress towards becoming global education "superpowers". "Two new Asian universities make the top 100 (Chinese University of Hong Kong and Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)), while another four join the top 200: City University of Hong Kong, University of Science and Technology of China, Fudan University and Hong Kong Polytechnic University," reported THE. "Furthermore, China’s two flagship universities have both made gains – Peking University joins the top 30 at 29th, while Tsinghua University joins the top 40 at 35th. Asia’s leading institution, the National University of Singapore, is at 24th – its highest ever rank."Meanwhile, India’s leading university – the Indian Institute of Science – is edging closer to the top 200, claiming a spot in the 201–250 band, its highest ever position."Rajika Bhandari, deputy vice-president of research and evaluation at the Institute of International Education, told the THE that the “sharp rise” of Asia’s universities was due to three main factors: rapidly growing populations and demand for higher education in the region; governments making “significant investments” in universities; and improvements by individual institutions. She added that many Asian scholars who had studied at Western universities were now academics in their home countries and had “really begun to transform their own higher education sectors”.Phil Baty, editor of the THE world university rankings, said, "It is fantastic news that the University of Oxford has topped the world university rankings for the first time. It is a great result for the UK higher education sector and cements its position as one of the greatest university nations in the world. "The UK must ensure that it limits the damage to academics, students, universities and science during its Brexit negotiations to ensure that the UK remains one of the world leaders in higher education."

2016/2017 rankings (last year's position in brackets):

1 (2) University of Oxford2 (1) California Institute of Technology3 (3) Stanford University4 (4) University of Cambridge5 (5) Massachusetts Institute of Technology6 (6) Harvard University7 (7) Princeton University8 (8) Imperial College London9 (9) Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich= 10 (13) University of California, Berkeley= 10 (10) University of Chicago

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